Adelaide’s nonnas, yayas and babas will meet to share food, stories and secret family recipes at the city’s newest pop-up restaurant, The Travelling Table. It lands at the Unley Town Hall this June.
“It’s history, it’s stories, it’s culture,” says co-director Sam Wright. Along with Vic Pisani (Womad’s Plant Talks program manager), he’s rounded up delegates from Adelaide’s Italian, Greek and Ukrainian communities in a celebration of food, family and culture.
Over four days, the event will feature a series of four-course dinners and workshops showcasing food from the first-generation migrants. “Food is so much of the fabric of who they are,” Wright says. “This is their recreation. This is what they grew up with.”
To adapt the traditional recipes they’ve enlisted the help of chef John Stamatakis (Roxie’s, Midnight Spaghetti) and special guests such as Matteo Giordano (owner-chef at Pane e Latte), who’s from Gioia del Colle in southern Italy.
With up to 130 guests at each dinner, Wright says it’s been challenging to scale up the recipes to feed a crowd. “We’ve had some hilarious conversations about measurements,” he says. “ … a handful of this, a pinch of that. It’s all about feel. It’s so intuitive.”
But there’s more to making traditional European food than simply following a recipe. The cooks will share generations of food knowledge and skills in a series of culinary workshops. Learn to make dishes from Greece and Molfetta in Italy, or roll up Ukrainian varenyky – gyoza-like potato dumplings topped with sautéed onion and sour cream.
Inspired by childhood memories of feasts with Italian family friends, Wright says that many Australians don’t have access to the food and culture of post-war migrants. “Unless you have that connection to the family ties, you’re left out of that community and you miss out on how good that food is – and they have excellent stories to tell.
The Travelling Table represents the rich heritage of South Australia; its elaborate tapestry of cultural diversity. “We’re all migrants in this country [apart from] the first Australians. We’re looking at the starting point of post-war migration.”
In the future he hopes to explore the food – and stories – of second- and third-wave migrants in Australia.
In an increasingly globalised world, food and cooking can unify communities. Wright hopes that “through understanding there is peace … What I hope is that we can share stories and through learning appreciate [other cultures.]”
“We tick away in our own little space, our own little home, and we don’t really learn about what else is around us at times.”
It’s all about leaving your comfort zone, and entering the home of another family and culture. “I want it to feel like you’re walking into the kitchen and dining room of one of these [grandmothers].”
The Travelling Table runs from June 7 to 10 at the Unley Town Hall. Tickets are available online.